Ever since director Bryan Singer’s 2000 big screen superhero flick X-Men brought the once colorful mutant heroes to modern audiences clad in black leather, comic book movies have been trying to reinterpret superheroes as realistic and relatable.
But whether you agree with the pursuit or not, there is one comic book aspect that has been faithfully and bewilderingly translated to the screen: Wolverine’s hair.
A pointy mess that defies gravity, the man also known as Logan’s true mutant power may be the shape his follicles naturally taking upon his head. And while comic book readers and moviegoers are naturally led to suspend their disbelief for mutant powers, time travel, giant robots, and more, the idea of Wolverine’s hair lingers. Simply one look at his coifed mane fills onlookers with countless questions.
Does he style it that way? Is it natural? Why doesn’t he cut it? Who would want to style their hair that way? Does it mean something? Seriously, why would someone want to style their hair that way? But like his adamantium skeleton, all-powerful healing factor, razor sharp claws, and classic masked look, Wolverine’s hair is an undeniable part of the oh-so-hairy X-Man.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t explore it’s strange origins and even stranger history.
Why’s It So Pointy?
If you’re not familiar with comics history, you may be surprised that Wolverine was once supposed to look far different than the hairy, squinty Canuck that fans have come to love. And it wasn’t just the hair, it was his appearance overall.
Wolverine was officially introduced in The Incredible Hulk #181 in October 1974 as a Canadian antihero out to defeat The Hulk. His appearance was slightly different than the iconic look he came to be defined by, but he was essentially Wolverine. He was then made part of the X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in May 1975, regularly appearing as a member of the team afterward. However, the character remained masked for a year. Not for the sake of mystery, it just shook out that way.
When the time came to reveal the man beneath the pointy mask, there was actually a point of contention. Artist John Byrne devised the look, but when he turned in the drawing to writer Christ Claremont, he found he had been beat to the punch by Dave Cockrum.
Cockrum had actually taken the look for another character he had been drawing for DC Comics’ Legion of Superheroes, Timberwolf, and modified it for Wolverine! Taking the already scruffy look and making him look more like a grumpy bar-hopping jerk resulted in the unmasked Logan.
As for his hair? Well, he just took Timberwolf’s already pointy mane and exaggerated it more so that Wolverine’s mask shape could continue out of costume, too. Little did he know what he had set in motion.
And that rejected concept sketch? Look closely. It was modified and later used for Wolverine’s greatest enemy: Sabretooth.
Suspension of Disbelief for Hair?
Logan’s hair remained status quo for some time, looking like he had made a mold and permanently glued it to his scalp. And what a widow’s peak! It was almost as if his hairline started between his eyebrows like some alternate universe version of a unibrow.
Thankfully, the widow’s peak lessened and eventually disappeared. I guess the writers realized that young readers didn’t think hair that cut your forehead in two was cool. The hair began to look more natural as well as comic art became more and more detailed. Well, as natural as giant swaths of hair on either side of your head that mocked the laws of physics could look.
But the trend in comics throughout the 1980s and ‘90s was bigger and bolder is better. And that definitely applied to Wolverine’s hair.
The hair got bigger and bigger, even to the point where it’s style wasn’t the most unnatural thing about it. Rather, it seemed impossible that it could fit into his mask’s already giant points! But like all interpretations of comic book superheroes, the look of a character highly depends on who is drawing him or her. While some may decide to go absolutely nuts with Wolverine’s hairdos, others may go for a more toned down appearance.
In general, comics since the early 2000’s have kept those follicles in check. More realistic tones and a grittier feel may simply mean there is no place for hair that sticks out past Logan’s shoulders.
Live Action Craziness
So maybe Wolverine’s hair gets a pass on the comic page. But it really doesn’t make sense on screen.
Are we truly to believe that a hardcore, no-nonsense guy who has been alive for more than a century carefully styles his hair each morning to be exactly the same? And in a way that no one with common sense would ever want? Forget the rippling muscles, razor sharp claws, or looking like Hugh Jackman, Logan would stand out in a crowd for his hair alone!
And while the hair has been done to varying degrees of success, it’s been subject to quite a few different interpretations. Interestingly, the quality of the film as a whole seems to dictate the quality of Wolverine’s hairstyle!
X-Men – A fairly faithful, if stiff, translation of Logan’s hair to the big screen for the first time ever. Quite like the way the hair was first drawn in the ‘70s. Jackman’s hair is fairly long and tamed to sweep backward and crest along the sides. There must have been plenty of discussion as to whether Wolverine should keep his signature hair for his first live action film, but the decision was made to keep it, even though they ditched the iconic mask that led to his pointy hairstyle. Overall? This haircut has a bit too much gel and is a littler too busy.
X2: X-Men United – Taking the good parts of the hair from the first one and making it so much better! This style feels more natural as a whole and doesn’t call too much attention to itself. Like the first film, Jackman’s hair is about the same length and gelled into distinctive points. However, be on the lookout for Jackman’s first scene in the film, where he visits Alkali Lake. This is a reshoot, with Jackman needing the wear the wig due to cutting his hair. The result is a haircut that just doesn’t look quite right. But his hair looks great otherwise.
X-Men: The Last Stand – What a monstrosity! This blow-dryed, poofed-out, thingamajig on top of Jackman’s skull makes it look like he’s hiding bald spots! It sits strangely on Jackman’s head, almost like it’s a helmut. In addition, his little windswept bangs that droop over his forehead every so often just look silly. This must have taken hours to do. And, much like the movie it was in, was definitely not worth the effort. No wonder they massively changed his hair in the films to follow, this just wasn’t working anymore.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – A much different take on the Wolverine hair. Long and loose instead of tight and styled. It still gives the impression from the comics, but feels like it could happen in real life. Getting the longer hair on the sides of his head to stick out a bit allows for an allusion to the iconic pointy style without it being obviously styled to look that way. However, the length of the hair means that it slightly changes appearance from scene to scene and doesn’t always look as good as the image used. This hairstyle is one of the only successes of this film!
The Wolverine – Another major departure from before, but in the opposite direction. At first, Logan is living as a homeless man in Canada, separated from most of society and sporting the long hair and beard to prove it. But when he’s asked to come to Japan, he gets cleaned up. Wolverine’s hair is chopped off and messy, like he’s had a bad hair day that no amount of gel can fix. There’s something much more grounded and subtle about his hair that doesn’t call attention to itself nearly as much as most others on the list. It suits the character, and the tone of the film, perfectly.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Two styles for the price of one! Future Wolverine is spiky and sleek, with groovy white streaks on either side as if to say, “This is a bleak future!” 70’s Wolverine is a little longer and smoother, plus no white hairs! These two styles take cues from The Wolverine and make the hair just a little longer and bolder. Either way, these two styles are classic and awesome.
X-Men: Apocalypse – Wolverine had all of three minutes of screen time in this 80’s-set X-Men movie in what really only amounted to a crammed-in cameo. However, fans of the character were finally treated to his classic comic book Weapon X look. Covered in headgear, suspenders, and plenty of mechanical doodads, this is a Wolverine who has been nearly turned into an animal. As such, his look is far wilder, with longer hair than typically seen and a big beard. There’s not much style to look for here, as his hair is long and unkempt when his headgear is finally removed. But he’s still definitely Wolverine.
Logan – Set to be Hugh Jackman’s final turn as the character on film, Logan is set in a dark dystopian future, with few mutants left and the aged Wolverine dealing with plenty of trauma and a failing healing factor. To reflect the change, Wolverine doesn’t just have grey hair, his hair is missing its signature points! This is most likely to reflect a life that has abandoned the typical superheroics and a hero who is far past his former glory days. It’s a very simple look, but Jackman is now forever linked with the character, so all he needs is a pair of adamantium claws in order to be recognized as Wolverine.
Despite its silliness, Wolverine’s hair is as much of an iconic part of the character as his claws. And since the first X-Men movie took the mutant hero’s signature mask away, taking his hair, too, would just been too many changes.
No matter where Logan goes on the page or screen, there are sure to be three things that follow: claws popping, bad guys getting sliced up, and hair that defies logic itself. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.